23 August 2016

Road Trip - Burgundy 1987

The third of the road trips in France ... At the end of September one year, we took the rental car from Paris to Dijon to start a leisurely tour along the Route des Grands Crus in Burgundy. Each specific wine-growing area blends (inappropriately dreadful pun) from one to another going south: Cote d'Or, Cote Chalonnaise, and Beaujolais. Having enjoyed our share of such labels as Pouilly-Fuissé, Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault, and others, we wanted to pay due homage in person. There was an indefinable excitement in the air because the harvest was beginning; men and machines were filling the fields and back roads.

This was some time ago, you understand, and many details have fallen by the wayside along with crates of corks and labels. Plus: the relevant scenes in the old family collection of slides (remember slides?) were largely unidentified to very specific places. I don't want to lose the remaining bits of magic so it's taken some sleuthing to rescue the highlights.

It's not a huge distance from Dijon to Macon where our ten-day-or-so journey stopped. We stayed in two or three relais as central points for countryside and winery exploration. We did manage a visit to the twelfth century Abbaye de Fontenoy along the route from Paris. I have no memory whatsoever of Dijon other than we had a dinner booked at a Michelin-starred restaurant ~ gourmandise was definitely part of the planning ~ where a supremely cool woman dined alone with her little dog resting under her chair. Soon we were meandering south.

Beaune was a perfect place to stay for a few days, especially Hôtel Le Cep in the middle of town. We could explore on foot; the glazed tile roof of the mediaeval Hospices de Beaune is an iconic Burgundy landmark. Centuries of history lie here from its 1443 founding as a charity hospital. Sixty hectares of vineyards producing fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay support the continuing tradition.

... And we had tastings on a tour of wine caves.

Macon was as far south as we went before returning to Paris. We stayed some miles from Macon in the impressive thirteenth century Château d'Igé. Igé has a waterside terrace among other peaceful spots.

Here a strange bacteria or bug caught up with me and horrors! my stomach forced me to decline dinner one night in the company of some copacetic fellow guests. In fact, we followed directions next day to consult un médecin who turned out to be the most charming elderly gentleman who never criticized my French. There's nothing like a restful historic ambiance in which to feel restored from flu-like symptoms fortunately they passed quickly away.


Macon itself was humming on a market day. Besides the usual foods, lace products were very much in evidence, particularly the filmy curtains with imaginative designs. And of course the entire area is chock full of restaurant dining pleasures. Grape harvesters were busy everywhere in the district's biggest business.

Time ran out. We did not reach Lyon, having to turn back. A world away from home.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman

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